PCGH_Tom has been overclocking on and off for fifteen years, but it’s only relatively recently that he has caught a (cold) bug for extreme overclocking on LN2. Today he is an important member of the PC Games Hardware OC team and a vital member of Germany’s evangelical OC contingent. We caught up with Tom earlier this year where he was enjoying his first Live Extreme OC contest. Read on for our latest Overclocker in Focus interview, and allow us to introduce you to PCGH_Tom.
The Interview Transcript
HWBOT: Hi Tom. Welcome to the Overclocker in Focus series. Please introduce yourself.
PCGH_Tom: So Hi, I’m Tom from PC Games Hardware in Germany. That’s our team name, it’s a German games magazine, I’m going to tell you a little bit more about that later. And that’s where my nickname comes from, actually which is pretty simple – PCGH, a short handle for PC Games Hardware, underscore Tom, and yeah, I’m from Germany.
HWBOT: What is your educational background?
PCGH_Tom: I used to study Pharmaceutical Chemistry actually before I became an editor later on. Because I wasn’t really having that much fun with my studies any more so after I graduated from college I took an internship at a German games magazine called GameStar and they were looking for an intern for their hardware department.
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet so I thought, well just for the sheer fun of it, let’s a apply and I didn’t even think that I would get an answer but a couple of weeks later I got invited to an interview so I went over to Munich and they said, ’well, we’d like you to try this review’ and I had a lot of fun. After a couple of months they were like ‘actually would like to be a trainee here and get a journalistic education?’ So I thought well of course because I had a lot of fun, they were nice guys in the office, so I did that.
I spent two years with IDG, that’s the mother company of GamesStar, before I switched to PC Games Hardware which is the largest gaming and IT related magazine in Germany. We have like 35,000 print issues we sell a month and our website is growing strongly, and I can’t tell how many million unique visitors we have each month. I do know that our Facebook account has 170,000 or something likes and we have something like 70,000+ subscribers on Youtube, so we have kind of a decent turn out. We have an Overclocking community as well, a team on HWBOT.
I myself have been playing around with overclocking a little bit, just because my system was getting a little too slow for the games I like to play so I did some CPU overclocking on air that’s pretty much it but I never really thought about it as a competitive for quite a long time.
HWBOT: When did you start (serious) overclocking?
PCGH_Tom: Well serious overclocking I started only about a year ago, really when I met Roman (Der8auer) and I did some article with him for the magazine and I really got hooked on the LN2 overclocking thing. So I started doing that about a year ago. I got a pot from Roman, I got myself some hardware, some Haswell stuff, some Ivy Bridge and also got myself some older socket 775 to just play around with it.
This (HWBOT tour event in Taiwan) is my first live competition that I’ve ever took part in. I was quite nervous. It’s a different thing when you are at home, at your own place, benching for yourself or maybe with just one friend, nobody watching over your shoulder, no cameras. There’s less pressure (at home). I don’t know. It was definitely a fun experience.
So my system wasn’t quite fast enough and I was back in college still and I didn’t have a lot of money and I also willing to spend a lot of money on a new PC so I thought, how can I push the performance a little more? I had read about overclocking before, I thought well… this might be an idea to at least get more playable frame rates again.
HWBOT: How would compare Overclocking today compared to the past?
PCGH_Tom: The first CPU I actually overclocked is quite old, I think it was a Cryrix CPU, so that’s quite a long while ago. I had like 166MHz (clock). Actually back I was still a student at school and I couldn’t afford a Pentium and the Cyrix CPU was just much, much cheaper than the Intel CPUs were. Their performance per MHz totally sucked. The 166MHz CPU couldn’t even keep up with a Pentium at 100MHz. So I overclocked that to 200MHz and later on, pretty much the next CPU I overclocked was an Athlon XP where I read about trick with the pencil. So you could basically connect two different circuits on the CPU which usually wouldn’t have any electrical connection, where you’re just painting a little coat of graphite on it so that there would be some conduction and you could improve performance.
That was fifteen years ago maybe, but I don’t have any real memory of the ‘good old days’ like some people talk about, from the guys because they were into competitive overclocking already back then. For me it was just like… well I don’t care how much extra performance I actually get out of it, I wasn’t going for any kind of efficiency, I was just trying to squeeze one or more frame out of the games I was playing. That’s pretty much it.
By now I have to say yeah, I’m kind of fed up with Haswell as well and I’m looking forward to Skylake and I hope that it’s going to be more interesting again.
HWBOT: What do you think of Overclocking as an eSport?
PCGH_Tom: I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Actually Roman and I, we did an event especially for Rookies this year, because we have some newcomer guys in our PC Games Hardware team in Germany. A lot of the most decent scores were with water or under air but none of them seemed to make the step up to LN2 or even DICE. So we thought well that might have several reasons of course – it’s not too cheap a hobby. People might be afraid of breaking their hardware, or just generally a little overwhelmed of all the stuff that you don’t have to worry about if you’re overclocking on water or air. Like insulating everything and stuff like that. Maybe people don’t even know where to get LN2 or stuff like that. So we thought let’s give these guys a chance to overclock with LN2.
We started an event with ASUS and Seasonic which we called the ASUS ROG Camp and we held online qualification where people could post scores over a course of four weeks. The best eight participants were invited to come to Nuremberg, close to our office where we held the live competition where Roman and I gave these guys an introduction to LN2 Overclocking and then they had like a day to train. On the second day we have a competition with Z97 motherboards, the Devil’s Canyon CPUs where they could, you know, go all out.
Actually out of eight of them six are still hooked on this and are actually posting scores with LN2 on HWBOT now. So we’d like to do something like that again to bring more young guys into Overclocking. It seems that having OC-ESPORTS events does help the community grow.
HWBOT: Where do you see overclocking in five years from now?
PCGH_Tom: On a professional level. I think there’s going to be like ten guys in the future which are, you could say like, superstars. Probably 8Pack is already, Roman is for the German region, probably which are Nick Shih is for the Asian market, who are really pushing their stuff to the limit and this is I think an Elite which has a lot more resources than a lot of other overclockers have. They really have industry support and probably I could imagine a point where we have a situation where top, the really top elite overclockers, for example k|ngp|n is a good example, you would see them working exclusively for one company and trying to market their personality as… the company will try to market their personality and their scores of course for their own image brand.
For example, I guess you could compare it to the Formula 1 league. It has nothing to with of course the Formula One Mercedes with a road car Mercedes, but the technologies that like Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg are pushing in these high end race cars, will at some point find their way into a mass production car. That is probably the way Overclocking is going. We actually have a similar (idea) where this could work out as we an example in gaming where you have Fatal1ty which has Fatal1ty-brand motherboards, headsets, mice whatever and he’s even actively playing anymore, but his name is so huge because he was one of the biggest and most successful eSport people ever that he is is still a valid marketing reason for companies out there. This is where I think the Elite is heading.
Like one step down I think we’re probably staying about where we are right now. Kind of like competitions where maybe twenty or thirty people are top of the world, besides the real high class, will come and compete for stuff like at MOA or the ROG OC Challenge like had this weekend. Go all out or full out on benchmarks with the newest hardware, like just a small level down. And then I think we have like a third part with enthusiastic amateurs you could probably say. It wouldn’t be as strict a competition you might have like we have right now with a certain set of rules, but it would be more like entertainment I guess.
I was having ideas, because it’s probably hard to, for a viewer who’s not really experienced with overclocking to keep them entertained for eight hours on a live stream. We were thinking about what could we do to make stuff like that more fascinating to people who are first time viewers and we thought about stupid stuff like maybe like doing one-on-one benchmarking. Each of them get three liters of LN2 and you set certain milestones, like for example 20,000 points in 3DMark. Whoever reaches that first and sets a score, he can get another liter of LN2 from the other person, and so they are really having to push it fast and hard to be able to have longer endurance at the end actually because you know they can put the other person under pressure more.
I think we would have to come up with ideas like that to get newbies really and newbie viewers into Overclocking more because they can’t relate to any scores but they could laugh about it – like in Germany we say ‘shadenfreude’… haha that guy just sold that guys a liter of LN2, so he’s really under pressure to get any results done with that few amount of LN2 at all.
HWBOT: Your advice to someone just getting started?
PCGH_Tom: If you really want to have fun with Overclocking as a beginner, and you want to get into competitive Overclocking I think first have a look at HWBOT and see which benchmarks there are and maybe try to figure out what you would like to do because there is several stuff actually. Like some people prefer 3D benchmarks so GPU overclocking mostly. Others prefer 2D benchmarks on the PCU only.
If you’re really a beginner, I started with 2D benchmarking because in the beginning it’s not too easy to actually handle…. there’s a lot of stuff going on with overclocking. You have to handle the temperature just right. You have to stay within a certain amount, a spread of only three degrees Kelvin maybe plus minus where you can operate efficiently. You have to handle the BIOS, Windows and you have to get to learn the benchmarks you do, because each of them has certain tweaks to it and certain things you should know about it.
For example in Firestrike Extreme, you should know, even with regular Fire Strike, you should know that right after the first loading screen you should really pour some LN2 on that GPU because it’s going to consume almost double as many watts as it will for the rest of the benchmark, for the first second or something. For example, I was benching with Roman a 780Ti, we had a peak of the 780Ti, we’re not counting the wattage coming out of the PCIe connector and we’re talking about 2051 watts! Which crazy, and we were amazed that our PSU could actually was able to handle that.
So pretty much start slow. You don’t need the fastest hardware, the newest hardware out there actually. Go on to eBay buy stuff like.. I can really recommend socket 775, I know it’s six something years old, but you can really learn a lot about how a computer works and how memory, CPU and GPU interact with each other on that platform. Plus you can get it on eBay really cheap. That’s true for mainboards, that’s true for CPUs and you can get graphics cards from that generation as well and will still be able to post nice scores on HWBOT without risking too much money. And you will actually find yourself learning a lot quicker than starting with Haswell-E for example.
HWBOT: What do you think of Taiwan?
PCGH_Tom: I’ve been to Taiwan several times, but I always enjoy coming here because you don’t only meet industry guys but a lot of the overclockers as well which I really enjoy because every enthusiastic overclocker from all over the world, they’re all coming here. We’re staying together in an apartment instead of each in a hotel. We rented an apartment for eight people. All the overclockers are staying together and we’re having fun partying, talking, overclocking and stuff like that. This is a really good experience that I can recommend to anybody.
And tiny beginner overclockers, you know, don’t be afraid of big names or anything because really in this community we’re all open and we’re all supportive. I can just say say for myself, you know I learned from Roman which is one of the top in the world, and he took me on like a Padawan and pretty much said, well think about and that when you’re benching. He wasn’t like I can’t tell you a tweak like that because you might get a better score than me in some benchmark. He doesn’t care, he wants to have more enthusiastic people in the community. He cares more about that than about somebody beating his score or whatever.
So just join us on HWBOT and on the forums or on the PC Games Hardware forum as well if you like, and ask the questions you have, and you’ll surely get an answer.